Recently, as I’m deep in the editing process of a few upcoming books, I haven’t been on Mastodon in a while. Even though Mastodon is certainly slower than Twitter was and far less sludgy, for me, at least, I still found myself very pleasantly surprised at various slow media that I enjoyed recently.
When I say, slow media, I’m talking about the three hour audio podcast streams, the audio documentaries that teach me something new. The numerous RSS feeds in my RSS reader. I haven’t been on the Fediverse timeline in a while, and I’ve really enjoyed not reading shorter content.
I think I get it anyway. The shorter content means less time investment, but in a way, I still don’t really get it. Perhaps it’s because I’m Blind so just don’t find short content appealing? But that’s just me. There are tons of other Blind people that love very short snippets of content and, well, yay for them! I don’t know why sighted people enjoy short content. I was thinking about this change way back when I went Off the Grid. I’m honestly seeing other people begin to understand things I knew decades ago. Then again, can a book foreshadow peoples perceptions? Certainly not! Well, I don’t think any of my books can, anyway. I’m not nearly as smart as philosophers or comedians or even influencers, but I do know what I’ve enjoyed, and I’ve honestly been diving into longer art lately. One such medium I’ve been thoroughly enjoying myself in is the fiction podcast space.
Even today, fiction podcasts are like the romance genres of the podcast world. Nobody takes them seriously, nobody recommends them, hardly, the audio drama format gets discovered at least 99 times every year by exclamations of "Gosh, it’s like a movie for your ears! We need to come up with a word for it!" on, and on, and on.
Fiction podcasts are not popular. At least, not mainstream popular anyway. Industry insiders are talking about audio fiction but also Investors aren’t clambering for ad space in fictional productions yet. I rarely hear any offline friends talk about the audio fiction podcast landscape. Actually, scratch that. I don’t hear anybody talking about the audio fiction podcast landscape at all, even within the visually impaired community, the very audience that these kinds of productions would be perfect for. Even so, I’ve found some beautiful productions that outshine any blockbuster movie today and it’s all free art! It’s all free. You just put the RSS doohickey into your podcast app of choice then press play on episode one. It’s all for free and boy oh boy, it’s magical.
There is a fiction podcast app called Apollo, but at the time of this writing, you can’t access their database through a website but also the apps are completely unusable by blind and visually impaired fans. Upon first glance, I thought it was another space designed to wall off fiction podcasts to a silo, which I’m firmly against. My stance is, keep the RSS feed alive and let us hear your show in our app of choice. I’m happy to report that Apollo takes from existing RSS feeds, but what I wish it would do is allow users to copy the non-exclusive RSS feed provided by the podcast company and take it elsewhere and listen elsewhere.
I also wished it would have become more of a directory than just an app. I tried the app for a day. I couldn’t use it to even browse for shows because it wasn’t accessible to screen readers, so I just closed the app. Apollo podcasts could have been a fantastic directory to find audio fiction, but I also think podcast providers should do more to support audio fiction. Same for all the other podcast apps.
On the hidden treasure that is audio fiction podcasts, I’ve certainly heard of podcasts before. At least, I heard about the mainstream podcasts everyone listens to. Serial. Mortified. The Moth. Storytelling podcasts, talk show podcasts, audio documentaries, and more. I know about many of these kinds of podcasts. To me though, it’s becoming harder and harder to find fiction podcasts.
How I usually find fiction podcasts is by combing through places like The End and the Audio Drama Directory. I’ve never believed that an open medium could provide so much wonderfully free art. It’s all meant for me, because I can just rest in bed and be transported to a wonderful story, all for free. That will never stop being amazing to me.
Of course, we still have corporations and companies trying to kill podcasts by making it a more closed medium, and tech companies are trying to kill the RSS feed, daily,but I’m glad the fiction community is pushing back against this.
Keeping up with audio fiction news is extremely difficult. I only know of one industry resource for audio fiction and that is the Fiction Podcast Weekly.
What I’ve recently discovered, much to my delight, is the fact that audio fiction doesn’t just have to be an audio drama, ahem, sorry, a movie for your ears. It can be a narrated production where a person reads a story out loud like an audio book. It could be a satirical news show. It could be so many things. It’s all open and free and all you need is a podcast app.
It’s also wonderful that the community embraces accessibility. At least, on the audio processing side anyway. Audio fiction is probably the easiest to create transcripts for because audio fiction is created from the script. Fiction podcast creators still need to make their websites accessible but that will come with enough education.
If I have any fears about the audio fiction landscape, it’s this. I fear that places like Luminary or Spotify will spring up again and try to get rid of this open ecosystem because we can’t monetize RSS feeds. I don’t mind audio fiction staying in a corner of the podcast space. In a way, I hope it doesn’t go mainstream other than TV adaptations getting made of shows like Hometown. By avoiding the mainstream, it’s also avoiding the underbelly that’s causing other industries to have an anti user moment, like what’s happening to all of tech right now, or what I call the Hollywood affect where risks are frowned upon to the point where we get yet another Star Wars thing because we know it will sell toys.
Has it been easy in this space? No. It’s hard to find audio fiction by disabled creators. It’s hard to find the romance genre in this space because the industry classifies the romance genre as drama for some reason, I’ll definitely have thoughts about that later. All the same, though. The audio fiction space provides me with a safe space I can find brand new creators and explore stories, all for free, so while I’m waiting on my library books to arrive, I’ll dive into a lush bite of audio fiction.
In closing, here’s where I find most of my audio fiction.